As the e-commerce industry accelerates in the country, experts believe it is also opening up new avenues of economic opportunity for women.
âE-commerce offers a huge opportunity for women in Pakistan as it enhances their reach to a wider audience to showcase their products from the comfort of their own homes,â PakistanCreates Founder Mahe Zehra Husain told The Express Tribune.
She believed that the economic opportunities offered by e-commerce were especially true for cottage industries, where people produced goods on a small scale in their homes.
E-commerce can help market and promote artisanal / indigenous crafts and help increase their sales. âThere is so much unexplored talent in Pakistan,â she said.
Speaking about Pakistani women, Husain said they are amazing at multitasking.
They were already taking advantage of the digital age by launching their business on social media, she said, adding that all they needed was a little help technologically.
âConsidering this, we decided to launch an online marketplace for talented local designers to showcase and sell unique and creative items. “
Although women were already selling products on existing e-commerce platforms, Husain pointed out that a large number of talented women were still not being served.
Citing reasons, she said the most important factor is the cost associated with each platform. They have to pay high registration fees to sell their products on e-commerce platforms, “which most of them cannot afford.”
This additional cost including registration fees, subscription fees, hidden fees, etc. made it difficult for talented young women to sell their creative items online, she added.
Moreover, none of these platforms aimed to promote handmade or âMade in Pakistanâ products, she said and added that their products âget lost in the noiseâ.
Women made up almost half of the Pakistani population, said Husain and stressed the need to empower and facilitate this huge community, especially women from remote and rural areas.
“I have felt over the years that women are remarkably talented but are mostly held back either due to lack of resources or family responsibilities,” she said.
“The talent we have here (Pakistan) is amazing, the only problem is conservation and discoverability.”
In Pakistan, women were showing great interest in e-commerce âas sellers,â she revealed, adding that most creative businesses online were run by women. âThey use all the digital tools they have. “
However, they lacked a place (online) where they could set up an online store and sell their products in an organized manner, she pointed out.
“It’s very difficult for a business to grow if it has 100 direct messages to respond to and most of them are pricing questions or the like.”
She argued that having a website was a much easier way to scale and track business orders. Buyers could also easily track their purchases by landing on the seller’s website, she added.
Regarding payment methods, she pointed out that incorporating the payment gateway requires heavy paperwork, which most sellers operating on a small scale avoid.
âThere has to be a simpler way,â Husain said, adding that there should be different tax laws for small sellers because they are doing business in a price sensitive market, which reduces their profit margins.
âIt would be amazing if the government takes note of these facts and tries to hold small vendors accountable,â she said.
âElectronic commerce not only contributes to the increase of global trade, but it also bridges the digital divide in Pakistan,â said Ghazanfar Azzam, CEO of Mobilink Microfinance Bank.
About 49% of the Pakistani population is made up of women, but their share in economic activities remains “extremely low”, he lamented.
âTo equip women with the skills to earn a living, it is essential to build their capacities at the local level,â he said.
Posted in The Express Tribune, November 28e, 2021.
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